How Power Works

Submitted by admin on Thu, 09/01/2016 - 22:02

Jaeger states a hypothesis that ‘Discourses exercise power as they transport knowledge on which the collective and individual consciousness feeds. This emerging knowledge is the basis of individual and collective action and the formative action that shapes reality.’ (Jaeger, 2001, p. 38)

Wodak also makes several interesting points about how power works (Wodak, 2001, p. 11):-

  • Power is about relations of difference, and particularly about differences in social structures
  • power does not derive from language, but language can be used
    • to challenge power
    • to subvert it
    • to alter distributions of power in the short and long term
    • it provides a finely articulated means for differences of power in social hierarchical structures
    • it can use almost any linguistic form which can be ‘pressed into the service’ of power
  • the constant unity of language and other social matters ensures that language is entwined in social power in a number of ways:-
    • language indexes power
    • it expresses power
    • language is involved where there is contention over power and a challenge to it
  • power is signalled not only by grammatical forms within a text, but also by a persons control of a social occasion by means of a genre of text
  • it is often exactly within the genres associated with given social occasions that power is exercised or challenged.

This seems to suggest that

  • power is mostly exercised at social occasions, and by social means
  • there is power within discourse (but is this impersonal – there seems little to be gained from creating a new discourse or achieving a major discursive step forward)
  • but, there is no suggestion as to the roots of power - are intention and resolve really at the root of it all ?